Probation Different for Juveniles and Adults in Virginia

juvenile in handcuffs

Children often make mistakes. In some cases, the mistakes are serious, and they find themselves facing serious criminal charges. A common result of children coming into contact with the juvenile court system is the child receiving probation. Virginia residents should understand the differences between probation for juveniles and adults, how probation works for juveniles and the importance of having an attorney familiar with the juvenile court system when a child is facing criminal charges.

Rehabilitation Not Retribution

According to the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, probation is the most widely-used and oldest community-based corrections program. Probation for juveniles may be a voluntary agreement between state officials and the juvenile in an effort to avoid facing formal charges, or the court may impose probation after a juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent. The DJJDP reported that probation was the most severe condition imposed on 61 percent of juveniles who were adjudicated delinquent in 2010.

The goal of probation for juveniles differs from probation for adults. The court imposes probation on adults as a punishment for wrongdoing and to restrict their liberty in an effort to prevent them from committing crimes in the future. Probation for juveniles is also for punishment and prevention to a certain extent, but it also incorporates an element of rehabilitation. The goal of probation for juveniles is to put them on the right path so they do not get caught up in the system and become repeat offenders.

Probation for Juveniles

Juvenile probation accomplishes the goal of rehabilitation by restricting a juvenile's liberty and providing the child individualized services based on his or her needs and the offense the child committed. The terms of a juvenile's probation are based on the child's circumstances and likelihood of reoffending. Those the court believes have a higher likelihood of committing more crimes in the future have more stringent terms of probation.

Juveniles on probation must meet with probation officers, similar to adults on probation, and have to abide by a curfew. Juveniles on probation in Virginia may also receive substance abuse treatment if they were convicted of offenses related to drugs, mental health services, anger management classes, vocational education or academic support and other similar services to help them be successful in the future.

Speak with an Attorney

Because the goals and procedure of juvenile courts are different than those of adult criminal courts, juveniles facing criminal charges in Virginia need to have an attorney who is familiar with the juvenile court system in order to help ensure that they have the best possible defense.

A lawyer with experience in juvenile court will be able to keep the matter in juvenile court and avoid having the child charged as an adult, as well as work with the court to find alternatives to detention if a child is adjudicated delinquent.

If your child is facing criminal charges, talk to an experienced attorney who can help advocate for your child.

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